ST. LOUIS — A federal judge has narrowed a wrongful-death lawsuit filed by the family of Michael Brown Jr. against Ferguson, its former police chief and the white ex-police officer who fatally shot the unarmed, black 18-year-old.
U.S. District Judge E. Richard Webber on Tuesday dismissed four of the seven counts from the suit and told lawyers for Michael Brown Sr. and Lesley McSpadden that they must make a more persuasive claim for damages on behalf of their late son. Brown's parents didn't attend the two-hour hearing in St. Louis.
The lawsuit raises several constitutional issues.
Webber says he dismissed two "redundant" counts against former Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson and former Officer Darren Wilson, who were sued individually and as representatives of the city. Both have since resigned.
The judge said the Brown family could refile those claims later if other parts of the lawsuit that cover the same legal ground were dropped.
Two of the dismissed claims dealt with state civil rights issues. Brown's family filed the lawsuit in St. Louis Circuit Court in April, but it was moved to federal court at the defense's request. The two Brown family attorneys who appeared in court told Webber they did not oppose the removal of those counts.
The hearing was held as the anniversary of Brown's Aug. 9 death approaches. Wilson shot and killed Brown following a scuffle. Brown's death led to sometimes-violent protests in Ferguson and other U.S. cities, spawning a national "Black Lives Matter" movement seeking changes in how police deal with minorities.
His family's lawsuit cites a U.S. Department of Justice investigation that cleared Wilson of wrongdoing in Brown's death but cited a systemic pattern of racial bias in the Ferguson Police Department.
Brown family lawyer Anthony Gray alluded to those problems Tuesday at a hearing that otherwise dealt almost exclusively with more technical legal arguments.
"We've got enough (discriminatory) actions to choke a hippopotamus," he said.
Peter Dunne, the attorney representing Ferguson, said he was "extremely pleased" by the judge's ruling.
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